Building guidelines possible
Conyers officials consider energy-efficient regulations

CONYERS - Conyers officials are considering making the city the first in the state to mandate construction guidelines designed to make new homes more environmentally friendly.

The guidelines are part of the Earthcraft Homes program that was developed in 1999 through a cooperative effort between Southface Energy Institute and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association.

"These are voluntary guidelines that the vast majority of builders already taking advantage of," said Councilman Marty Jones during the City Council's weekend work retreat in January. "By making these guidelines mandatory, we are really not affecting what quality builders are already doing but we are sending a message that this is the type of construction we want to see in our community."

The guidelines incorporate a variety of construction elements, ranging from more efficient windows to installation of a higher grade heating and air conditioning unit than a builder might otherwise choose to use.

"This is not Draconian and I'm not big on the government being in places it doesn't belong, but I see being environmentally friendly and energy efficient as a no-brainer," Jones said. "What this will do is make certain we are getting quality home construction, which ultimately attracts a higher end home buyer."

The upgrades could increase the cost of new home construction. Council members estimated it would be about a 3 to 4 percent increase. But the goal, they said, would be to offset any added cost through energy savings.

According to figures provided to the city by the GAHBA, a standard $150,000 home would cost $154,816 by adding energy saving features; but those features would save more than $14,000 over a 20-year period.

"I think this is one of those good things we can be out front on," Councilman Gerald Hinesley said. "People are concerned about the environment and this is the kind of thing they will be looking at when buying a home, and this is the kind of person we want coming to our community."

Jones has pressed the idea of making Conyers a leader in demonstrating energy savings and efficiency.

"I realize the word "mandatory' can cause some heartburn and concern, but we don't want people to see it that way," Jones said. "We want people to see a community that wants to lead the way in an area that is becoming increasingly important in terms of finding ways in which to improve the quality of life for its citizens."

Jones said he hoped to have the details of an ordinance ready to present to the full council by the middle of the year.

A group of city employees dubbed the "Green Team" has explored ways to make the city more energy efficient by offering ideas, including replacing existing thermostats in city buildings with programmable models and reducing the temperature settings on all hot water heaters in city facilities.

Ric Latarski can be reached at ric.latarski@rockdalecitizen.com.